First Sunday of Advent
MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, ON SUNDAY 30 NOVEMBER 2008 AT 11AM.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“To you my God I lift my soul. I trust in You.”
As we begin the season of Advent and turn to Year B in the Lectionary for Sundays, the Lord is giving us a three-fold invitation: to prepare for and commemorate his coming in time born of a Virgin; to prepare our hearts that Christmas will be celebrated by Christian living and openness to others; and to be vigilant that at the end of our life and at the end of time Jesus Christ will come as our judge.
The ideal of loving and following Jesus, loving others as he has loved us, is the challenge put for us as we seek to strengthen our will to make our contribution in the ultimate good of enriching the world of our life and our community.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we are challenged in a new way with the vision of what it means to be a Christian. You and I might reply, it means to be in love with Jesus Christ, to follow him and to reach out to others by the gifts we bring to their life and to our community.
The Scriptures today take the importance of following the Lord, being vigilant to the signs that exist in our world and then going forward with our eyes fixed on him. The refrain of the Psalm: “Lord, make us turn to you. Let us see your face and we shall be saved”, shows the hope that exists in our life and in all that we do.
In his homily at the beginning of the Synod of Bishops on Sunday, 5th October, Pope Benedict addresses the situations in our world and the need for us to look out for the needs of others, empowered by the Gospel. He said: “Whenever man eliminates God from his horizon and declares God dead, is he really happy? Does he become freer? When men proclaim themselves the absolute proprietors of themselves and the sole masters of creation, can they truly build a society where freedom, justice and peace prevail? Doesn’t it happen instead, as the daily news amply illustrates, that arbitrary power, selfish interest, injustice and exploitation and violence are extended. And in the end man finds a position of finding himself lonelier and society is more divided and bewildered.”
In today’s second Reading Saint Paul begins: “I never stop thanking you for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ.” We remember that we are shaped by others and with images of living and growing, God, the divine potter, helps to shape our hearts, minds and wills.
Through the suffering that is part of our life, purification comes. We try and see people and situations as God sees them. We try and reach out into the needs of our society, at times grapple with them, but at all times see that life does not exist just for ourselves to enjoy, forgetful of others, but that we find our truest fulfilment in giving of ourselves.
This is what Saint Paul underlines as the great preacher of the Gospel. He challenges us, saying that “the witness to Christ has been strong among you, so that you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for the Lord, Jesus Christ, to be revealed.”
Our service is therefore a work of God’s grace. Paul insists that grace enriches the believer with every good gift. It confirms the knowledge of Christ and authentic witness to him, and gives us power to change, to grow and to have new beginnings. Far from the license, which the Holy Father criticises in his address to the Synod, we achieve a new freedom and a new vision of what is possible in our lives and in the lives of others, if we are open to what God can achieve in us.
In every person, even the most frail and troubled, we see a dignity that is imperishable. We seek to walk with them with the very best of our skills, with our competence and gifts, and with generous material support. All of these things are motives for thanksgiving, because they are people cooperating with the grace of God and working to change our world.
Indeed, in the words of the Gospel today, “the vigilance that we have, staying awake because we never know when the time will come”, is a two-fold invitation; an invitation to be vigilant to the possibilities of care, of reaching out to lift people up, and in our own life to be living aware of the realities of the world in which we live. Despite the fact that in the other Gospel story the vine dressers killed the heir in the same way as men killed God’s Son, we must remember in all that we do, as the Pope says, that “evil and death do not have the last word. It is Christ who wins in the end. The Church never tires of proclaiming the Good News of God’s love for people, of his invitation to each of us to be involved in the unfolding of a world more respectful of human dignity, more caring of the needs of others, more spiritual and challenged in responding to the invitation, which God gives us.”
The invitation today then is to live a richer more truthful, more gifted humanity, humbly putting our gifts at the service of others, vigilant that this will only happen if our mind, our prayer and our works are the works of Christ.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne